WBEZ | Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/tags/rahm-emanuel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Despite excessive-force complaints, police commander maintains support http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-excessive-force-complaints-police-commander-maintains-support-110618 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Evans2verticalCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 307px; width: 300px;" title="Evans, 52, listens to a Harrison District resident Tuesday at a National Night Out event. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />At least 45 excessive-force complaints against him in less than two decades. At least three five-figure settlements in lawsuits accusing him of misconduct. An ongoing criminal investigation into his alleged assault of an arrestee. And a city agency&rsquo;s recommendation that his police powers be stripped.</p><p>Despite it all, Harrison District&nbsp;Cmdr. Glenn Evans maintains the support of not only Chicago&rsquo;s mayor and police superintendent but many rank-and-file cops and West Side residents. Some of them are expressing hope that Evans&rsquo; aggressive policing style could help combat crime in the district, which has led the city in homicides over the last year.</p><p>That hope was palpable this week during National Night Out, intended to help cops across the country build trust with the communities they patrol. At the Harrison event, a dinner gathering on a high-school ball field near Garfield Park, Evans and other uniformed cops mingled with a small crowd of neighborhood residents while Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) took the microphone.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to thank Cmdr. Glenn Evans for his leadership in the last couple months,&rdquo; Ervin told the gathering.</p><p>Since his transfer to Harrison from a South Side district this March, Evans has also impressed Jimmy Simmons, a retired building contractor who co-facilitates West Humboldt Park community-policing meetings, where neighborhood residents discuss crimes ranging from drug dealing to vandalism. &ldquo;If you set up a meeting with [Evans], he addresses those issues right away,&rdquo; Simmons said. &ldquo;He goes out on the street himself.&rdquo;</p><p>The issue is what <em>happens</em> when Evans goes out on the street.</p><p>Last year in the Grand Crossing District, his previous post, the commander allegedly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cpd-leaves-commander-post-despite-assault-allegation-dna-match-110581">jammed his pistol</a> into the mouth of an arrested man and threatened to kill him. A lab test found that DNA on the gun matched the arrested man.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/glenn-evans"><strong>Read all our coverage about Cmdr. Glenn Evans</strong></a></p><p>In April, based on the test results, the city&rsquo;s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) referred the case to the State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez office&rsquo;s&nbsp;for criminal investigation and recommended that Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration relieve the commander of his police powers pending the outcome of the case, which did not come to light until a WBEZ report last week.</p><p>Evans has also been the subject of at least three lawsuits in which the city has paid plaintiffs almost $190,000 to settle claims of excessive force or other misconduct. One was finalized <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/report-embattled-commander-no-1-excessive-force-complaints-110605">last year</a>, the others <a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/abusing-badge#.U-P2YuNdWSq">in 2009</a></p><p>And, this week, WBEZ obtained a report tallying those 45 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/report-embattled-commander-no-1-excessive-force-complaints-110605">excessive-force complaints</a> against Evans between 1988 and 2008. That total put him on top of a list of 1,541 officers for whom the city provided data. Authorities responsible for investigating the complaints found that two warranted disciplinary action.</p><p>Do such numbers prove Evans has abused his badge?</p><p>&ldquo;More likely, this police officer is out there doing good police work and upsetting criminals,&rdquo; said a veteran Chicago patrol officer who has worked under the commander.</p><p>&ldquo;Evans is a very boots-on-the-ground commander,&rdquo; said the officer, who spoke on condition he not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s unlike a lot of the other commanders I&rsquo;ve ever had an opportunity to work with &mdash; who play to the aldermen or play to other members of the community. He&rsquo;s all about getting crime off the street. If that means going and grabbing people on the corner himself, he&rsquo;s gone and done that.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So he doesn&rsquo;t expect anything from us that he himself won&rsquo;t go out there and do, and he&rsquo;s shown that, time after time,&rdquo; the officer said.</p><p>G. Flint Taylor, a Chicago attorney who often represents plaintiffs alleging excessive police force, has a different take on those complaints against Evans. &ldquo;He is one of the worst, if not the worst repeater cop, in the history of the city of Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Taylor points out that thousands of Chicago cops have been tough on crime without drawing dozens of complaints, like Evans has. &ldquo;He should be fired,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rev. Marshall Hatch, the longtime pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, said the Emanuel administration&rsquo;s ability to leave Evans in his post, even after the IPRA recommendation, shows what can happen when the mayor appoints all city officials in charge of police accountability. Those include IPRA&rsquo;s chief administrator, the police superintendent and the Police Board.</p><p>Hatch also voiced concern about the allegations against Evans. &ldquo;If they are substantiated, then you simply can&rsquo;t have that kind of breach of credibility as a commander in a district like this &mdash; where you really have to build police-community relations.&rdquo;</p><p>But the pastor avoided calling for Evans&rsquo; ouster. &ldquo;We want to lend all the support we can to a commander in a district that has so many challenges,&rdquo; Hatch said.</p><p>Evans last week declined to comment on the IPRA case. At the neighborhood gathering this week, the&nbsp;commander&nbsp;would not talk with a reporter about the complaints against him.</p><p>Interviewed at that event, Ervin, the alderman, said he was not taking a stand on whether an officer with Evans&rsquo; record should be stripped of police powers.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s ultimately a question that the superintendent has to answer,&rdquo; Ervin said, referring to Supt. Garry McCarthy. &ldquo;I will withhold any judgment until either speaking with him or, if there&rsquo;s an ongoing investigation with the state&rsquo;s attorney, until they announce something or make something definite in relation to this.&rdquo;</p><p>On Thursday, WBEZ asked McCarthy what message it sent to officers to leave Evans in his post after the excessive-force complaints and the recommendation that the commander&rsquo;s police powers be stripped. The superintendent did not answer.</p><p>Earlier this week, a police department spokesman credited Evans for a drop in shootings in Grand Crossing last year but declined to answer questions about McCarthy&rsquo;s handling of the commander. &ldquo;We take any allegations seriously but, as is always the case, we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation,&rdquo; the spokesman wrote.</p><p>Another question is how Evans&rsquo; policing style will go over with West Siders in the long term.</p><p>&ldquo;They won&rsquo;t trust cops who are meant to protect them if cops act as if they are lawless,&rdquo; said Xavier Stewart, 20, a college student who lives in the commander&rsquo;s district and attended the National Night Out event. &ldquo;In this community, where things are kind of bad, you need police [officers] to do their jobs.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And if they don&rsquo;t do their jobs,&rdquo; Stewart warned, &ldquo;the community will answer back to that and think of it as, &lsquo;Why should I trust cops if they&rsquo;re going to act this way?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 07:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-excessive-force-complaints-police-commander-maintains-support-110618 Report: Embattled commander No. 1 for excessive-force complaints http://www.wbez.org/news/report-embattled-commander-no-1-excessive-force-complaints-110605 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-93192654-a82a-222c-a2eb-64ef1c46f5be"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Evans%201tightcrop.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 215px; width: 300px;" title="Evans, a 28-year department veteran, remains in his Harrison District post despite a city agency’s recommendation that his police powers be stripped. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />An analysis of excessive-force complaints against hundreds of Chicago police officers is raising more questions about a district commander who is under investigation for allegedly assaulting an arrestee.</p><p>The 49-page report, authored by a former Chicago chief epidemiologist, found that Harrison District Cmdr. Glenn Evans had at least 45 excessive-force complaints between January 1988 and December 2008. During those decades, according to the report, Evans had the highest number of complaints among 1,541 officers for whom the city provided data.</p><p>The author, Dr. Steven Whitman, compiled and studied five city datasets listing 13,527 excessive-force complaints for the officers. Whitman, who died last month, finished the analysis in 2010 for a lawsuit against one of the cops. The report, obtained by WBEZ, has remained out of public view.</p><p><a href="http://peopleslawoffice.com/about-civil-rights-lawyers/attorney-staff-bios/flint-taylor/">G. Flint Taylor</a>, a partner at the People&rsquo;s Law Office, said the Whitman analysis showed something about Evans that he and his colleagues had long suspected. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s one of the worst [excessive-force] repeater cops in the history of the city of Chicago,&rdquo;&nbsp;Taylor said.&nbsp;&ldquo;He should be fired.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ last week revealed an April <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cpd-leaves-commander-post-despite-assault-allegation-dna-match-110581">recommendation by the city&rsquo;s Independent Police Review Authority</a> that Evans be stripped of police powers. In that case, Evans allegedly jammed his police pistol into an arrestee&rsquo;s mouth and threatened to kill him. A test found that DNA evidence on the gun matched the arrestee, Rickey J. Williams, 24.</p><p>IPRA also referred the case to Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office for criminal investigation.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not respond to questions about his administration&rsquo;s handling of Evans in light of the Whitman report. Last week an Emanuel spokesman said the mayor would not comment on the IPRA recommendation because that investigation was ongoing.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/glenn-evans"><strong>Read all our coverage about Cmdr. Glenn Evans</strong></a></p><p>A spokesman for police Supt. Garry McCarthy, questioned Monday about the Whitman report, wrote that the police department takes any allegations seriously but cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.</p><p>The McCarthy spokesman, Martin Maloney, also lauded Evans, a 28-year department veteran. &ldquo;Throughout his career, Cmdr. Glenn Evans has reduced crime and violence for the communities he has served,&rdquo; Maloney wrote, crediting Evans for improvements in a South Side district he commanded until March.</p><p>&ldquo;Under Cmdr. Evans&rsquo; leadership, the 3rd District had 80 fewer shootings last year than in 2012, the second largest decline in the city,&rdquo; Maloney wrote.</p><p>That praise sounds familiar to Taylor, who has filed lawsuits about Jon Burge, a former Chicago police commander imprisoned for lying about torture. &ldquo;In the police department&rsquo;s view, he was effective,&rdquo; Taylor said. &ldquo;At the same time, he was torturing over 100 African-American men.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There are many proactive cops in high-crime areas that do not rack up a fraction of the complaints that Evans and the other bad guys have,&rdquo; Taylor said.</p><p>Authorities responsible for investigating the Evans complaints in the Whitman report found that two warranted disciplinary action. That gave Evans a 4.4 percent rate of complaints sustained, compared to a 3.0 percent average for all the officers in the report.</p><p>Evans has also been the subject of at least three lawsuits in which the city has paid plaintiffs to settle claims of excessive force or other misconduct.</p><p>In one of those settlements, finalized last December, the city agreed to pay $71,000 to Chicago resident Chas Byars Sr., who accused Evans of grabbing his infant son&rsquo;s car seat so forcefully during an arrest that the baby fell out and hit his head on a table. Neither the city nor Evans admitted wrongdoing.</p><p>Evans did not return WBEZ calls on Monday. Reached last week about the Williams case, the commander declined to comment.</p><p>Some <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-excessive-force-complaints-police-commander-maintains-support-110618">rank-and-file officers and community members have praised Evans</a> as a hard-working cop and attentive commander.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/report-embattled-commander-no-1-excessive-force-complaints-110605 CPD leaves commander in post despite assault allegation, DNA match http://www.wbez.org/news/cpd-leaves-commander-post-despite-assault-allegation-dna-match-110581 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mugs%20combined.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 195px; width: 300px;" title="A complaint says Evans, right, jammed his police pistol into the mouth of Rickey J. Williams, left. (Photos from IDOC and CPD)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is leaving a West Side police commander in his post despite an April recommendation by the city&rsquo;s Independent Police Review Authority that his police powers be stripped.</p><p>The recommendation followed a DNA test bolstering a complaint that Harrison District Cmdr. Glenn Evans, 52, assaulted a South Side arrestee.</p><p>The complaint, according to sources close to the case, alleges that Evans threatened to kill Rickey J. Williams, 24, and jammed his police pistol into the man&#39;s mouth. The sources spoke on condition they not be identified because they are not authorized to speak with the media.</p><p>The DNA test, described in an April 17 <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/235513963/Evans-ISP-Lab-Report">laboratory report</a> from the Illinois State Police, found that material swabbed from the weapon &ldquo;matches the DNA profile&rdquo; of Williams.</p><p>IPRA, the city agency that investigates complaints of excessive police force, referred the case to Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office for criminal investigation. An Alvarez spokesperson said the office is &ldquo;not in a position at this time to make any public comment about the case.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/glenn-evans">Read all our coverage about Cmdr. Glenn Evans</a></strong></p><p>Spokespersons for police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Mayor Emanuel said they would not comment on the complaint because of the ongoing investigations.</p><p>The incident took place January 30, 2013, near the corner of East 71st Street and South Eberhart Avenue, according to a police report about the arrest. Evans, a commander who takes pride in patrolling the streets, was on duty in Grand Crossing, a South Side district he commanded at the time.</p><p>Evans spotted Williams with a blue-steel handgun in his pocket and chased the man on foot into an abandoned building, according to the arrest report. At least two other officers joined Evans on the scene.</p><p>Williams&rsquo; complaint, as described by the sources, alleges that a taser gun was pressed into his crotch while Evans held the police pistol in his mouth.</p><p>Reached by WBEZ, Evans declined to comment.</p><p>Vincent L. Jones, an IPRA investigator on the case, declined to comment or provide a copy of the complaint.</p><p>After the arrest, police and fire personnel searched the area but did not find the gun Williams allegedly possessed, according to another source close to the investigation.</p><p>Neither Evans nor the assisting officers filed a tactical response report as required when unusual force is used.</p><p>Williams was charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct. Months later, according to court records, officials dropped the charge when Williams demanded a trial.</p><p>Williams could not be reached for comment. Illinois is holding him in Pontiac Correctional Center, a downstate prison, for offenses unrelated to his encounter with Evans. Williams&rsquo; record includes felony convictions for possessing marijuana and violating electronic-monitoring terms.</p><p>As Williams began his prison sentence, IPRA&rsquo;s investigation of Evans continued. Based on the lab results, the agency sent a memo to McCarthy, the police superintendent. The memo, signed by IPRA Chief Administrator Scott Ando, points to the DNA match and recommends that the police department relieve Evans of his police powers and &ldquo;evaluate&rdquo; the commander&rsquo;s assignment.</p><p>Ando did not answer WBEZ questions about the case. His spokesman said IPRA could not comment because the investigation is ongoing.</p><p>Evans has been the subject of several lawsuits alleging excessive force or other misconduct. Those suits have led to at least <a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/abusing-badge#.U9ncP-NdWSp">two settlement payouts</a> by the city.</p><p>Evans is also among 662 Chicago officers with more than 10 misconduct complaints during the five years that ended in May 2006, according to <a href="http://the.invisible.institute/police-data/">long-sought records</a> the city released Tuesday. During that period, Evans had 14 complaints, none of which resulted in discipline.</p><p>Many <a href="http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2012/08/command-changes.html">rank-and-file officers</a> and some <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140321/chatham/garry-mccarthy-tells-angry-crowd-why-he-changed-3rd-district-commander">community members</a> have called Evans&rsquo; policing style appropriate for the tough districts in which he has served. <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/01/01/superintendent-mccarthy-assists-in-arrest-on-west-side/">McCarthy himself</a> has praised Evans&rsquo; work repeatedly.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cpd-leaves-commander-post-despite-assault-allegation-dna-match-110581 Lucas chooses Chicago for his art, memorabilia museum http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 <p><p>Get your lightsabers ready: The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is coming to Chicago.</p><p>George Lucas and the museum board announced Tuesday they had chosen Chicago as the home for the museum, beating out San Francisco and Los Angeles.</p><p>It all started more than four years ago, in a galaxy far, far away -- also known as George Lucas&rsquo; home of San Francisco. Lucas&rsquo; originally wanted to build his museum for art and movie memorabilia at Crissy Field, land owned by the Presidio Trust. But when his plans were rejected earlier this year, he began looking into other options.</p><p>In a statement, the Lucas Museum board says Chicago&rsquo;s proposed site by Soldier Field was &ldquo;significantly larger&rdquo; and closer to public transportation than the sites San Francisco was offering. The board also lauded Chicago&rsquo;s museum campus - the proposed site for the museum - as &ldquo;vibrant,&rdquo; and &ldquo;centrally located in a city renowned for its love of art and architecture.&rdquo;</p><p>Though he&rsquo;s from California, Lucas has his own personal connections to Chicago. Lucas&rsquo; wife, Mellody Hobson, is a prominent businesswoman from Chicago. The couple celebrated their wedding at Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore. The city closed down the entire park for the event.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been lobbying for major cultural institutions to move to or take root in Chicago. A mayoral-appointed task force last month recommended the Lucas museum be built along the lakefront, in the now-parking lots between Soldier Field and McCormick Place</p><p>Emanuel called landing the Lucas Museum a &ldquo;tremendous opportunity&rdquo; for the city. He&rsquo;s said in the past taxpayers wouldn&rsquo;t be footing the bill for the billion-dollar investment.</p><p>The mayor has also attempted to assure Bears fans that the Lucas museum won&rsquo;t keep them from tailgating before home games. Last month, he told reporters at an unrelated event that &ldquo;there&rsquo;s going to be tailgating. Full stop.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t thank George and Mellody enough,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;No other major American city has these type of cultural education institutions, with a great Northerly Island creating a vibrant, green museum campus - unparalleled in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>In a statement, George Lucas says Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but the Bay area will always be his home.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian"><em>@laurenchooljian</em></a></p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 Watch Chicago's 2nd Ward fly north over the years http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-chicagos-2nd-ward-fly-north-over-years-110293 <p><div class="image-insert-image ">Last week <a href="http://wbezdata.tumblr.com/post/86343915004/mapping-rahm-emanuels-2011-victory-and-how-that-may" target="_blank">we looked at</a> where Rahm Emanuel had support in his 2011 election and how that might shift, but one of the major pieces of geography that will change in 2015 are the boundaries themselves.</div><p>In 2012 aldermen approved a new ward map, as they do every 10 years with the decennial census. And as is also a Chicago tradition, there were calls of gerrymandering, civil rights abuses and the eventual lawsuit.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s redistricting efforts have been challenged in three of the past four attempts going back to 1980. That&rsquo;s why you&rsquo;ll find two different maps in use in the 1980s and 1990s, and very possibly later this decade as well (A lawsuit from the League of Women Voters is <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140228/downtown/city-ward-map-lawsuit-headed-back-court" target="_blank">working its way through the courts)</a>.</p><p>Inspired by a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/" target="_blank">series of articles from the <em>Washington Post</em>&rsquo;s Christopher Ingraham</a>, we decided to see just how gerrymandered Chicago&rsquo;s wards have become. Ingraham created a 0-100 scale to measure the level of gerrymandering in congressional districts and we reproduced that to see how Chicago&rsquo;s wards stacked up to Congress.</p><p>We used maps from three sources: The <a href="http://hue.uadata.org">Historical Urban Ecological data set</a>, the <a href="http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/collections/maps/chigis.html">University of Chicago</a>, and the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/doit/dataset/boundaries_-_wards.html">city</a> of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/approved-ward-map-95662">Chicago</a>.</p><p>We loaded those maps in a PostGIS database and followed Ingraham&rsquo;s methodology, specifically applying the <a href="http://www.redistrictingthenation.com/whatis-compactness.aspx">Polsby-Popper method</a> to determine a gerrymandering score (on a 0-1 scale), then converting it to a 0-100 scale.</p><blockquote><p><em>If you&rsquo;re playing along at home, the formula we used was 100*(1-(((4*3.14)*Area)/Perimeter^2))</em></p></blockquote><p>A few caveats before we continue:</p><p>-Polsby-Popper isn&rsquo;t the only way to measure gerrymandering and may not capture aspects some would associate with gerrymandering. We followed along with Ingraham&rsquo;s method to make comparisons.</p><p>-A perfect compactness score of 0 would be a circle, but no area can be split into a bunch of circles. A series of perfect squares would score 21.5.</p><p>-Compactness of a ward doesn&rsquo;t take into account population, demographics or keeping communities together, something required by the Voting Rights Act. That means sometimes a less-compact district can better serve a community.</p><p>-Chicago is a weird looking city (geographically speaking). With Lake Michigan, the O&rsquo;Hare annexation and its extreme North-South orientation, there are a lot of irregular boundaries. The city itself scores 88.8 on our gerrymandering scale (which may say something about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">how the city came together</a>, but that&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re working with).</p><p>With that said, this is a good starting point to look at how Chicago&rsquo;s wards have changed over the years, and how it compares to other civic divisions.</p><p><strong>1927</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1927_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1927 (Source: Historical Urban Ecological data set)" /></div><p>Chicago first split into 50 wards in the 1920s. Before then there were 35 wards with two aldermen each. Reformers hoped that having one alderman per ward (and 50 instead of 70) <a href="http://www.lib.niu.edu/1979/ii790211.html" target="_blank">would help reduce corruption</a>. The fact that this story exists implies that it did not.</p><p>That first attempt at 50 wards (with annexation thrown in in 1927) is pretty compact, and contains mostly shapes your toddler could name. You can see in the map above that most ward lines are fairly straight, with the Chicago River the main natural divider creating some squiggles.</p><p>At this point the 2nd Ward is a fairly regular shape, more or less a six-sided polygon.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 43.37. Chicago score: 48.74.</strong></p><p><strong>1986</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1986_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1986 (Source: University of Chicago)" /></p><p>Fast forward to 1986 (the next year we could find electronic ward maps). These boundaries were drawn after the election of Harold Washington as mayor and a <a href="http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2730&amp;context=cklawreview">4-year-long court battle</a>, so would only be in effect until 1992.</p><p>While the map as a whole has undergone some major changes, the 2nd Ward is relatively close to its original shape. The boundaries to the north, west and east are in basically the same spot, but it has grown to the south. Also, notice how the southern boundary is more irregular.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 45.06. Chicago score: 61.58.</strong></p><p><strong>1992/1998</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1998_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 1998 (Source: University of Chicago)" /></p><p>Following the 1990 census the Chicago City Council couldn&rsquo;t decide on a new ward map so they sent two proposals to voters in a referendum. Again, the choice was challenged and went to the courts, and a new ward map came in 1998. The process <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-09/opinion/ct-edit-wards-1109-jm-20111109_1_new-chicago-ward-map-incumbent-aldermen-census" target="_blank">cost the city $18.7 million</a>.</p><p>This is the first major change for the 2nd Ward. Other than its eastern edge on Lake Michigan, the whole thing is blown up and now resembles something like a transposed &lsquo;L.&rsquo; Not only does most of it move north, but its long, skinny shape extends west halfway across the city.</p><p>In this one change, the 2nd Ward goes from one of Chicago&rsquo;s more regular wards to one of the more gerrymandered.</p><p>While the new 1998 map had some big changes for certain districts, there was little change as far as the gerrymandering score for the city or Ward 2.</p><p><strong>1992: 2nd Ward score: 84.89. Chicago score: 69.91.</strong></p><p><strong>1998: 2nd Ward score: 85.10. Chicago score: 69.71.</strong></p><p><strong>2002</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2002_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 2002 (Source: City of Chicago)" /></p><p>After the 2000 census an amazing thing happened: Chicago passed a ward map that didn&rsquo;t get thrown out by the courts. In true Chicago style, though, this came because of more gerrymandering, not less.</p><p>Mayor Richard M. Daley <a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=164131">worked with black and Latino councilors to craft wards that were acceptable to them</a>, creating safer constituencies at the expense of compactness.</p><p>The 2nd Ward is barely touching its original area, a plume of smoke rising from the ashes of its foundation. Its continued its northern path and now swallows up Burnham Harbor, Soldier Field and and the Field Museum.</p><p>This is the first time the 2nd Ward is Chicago&rsquo;s most gerrymandered, narrowly passing the 41st (91.28).</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 91.33. Chicago score: 69.71.</strong></p><p><strong>2015</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2015_0.jpg" style="height: 378px; width: 320px;" title="Chicago City Council Wards, 2015 (Source: City of Chicago)" /></div><p>These are the wards that will elect our next round of aldermen in February, unless of course they don&rsquo;t.</p><p>The 2nd Ward was moved not only entirely north of where it was in 1927, but north of where it was in 2002. This got a lot of attention after the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-20/news/ct-met-city-council-new-ward-map-20120120_1_new-ward-map-aldermen-vote-whitney-woodward">map was approved in 2012</a>, because it moved current 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti into the 28th Ward, seemingly a punishment for not sticking with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>WBEZ produced <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/approved-ward-map-95662">an interactive map of the new wards</a> along with demographic profiles of each ward back in 2012. Check out that link for more information on the process as well.</p><p>The end result is that the 2nd Ward is now solidly Chicago&rsquo;s most gerrymandered, with the 1st Ward ranking second at 91.48.</p><p><strong>2nd Ward score: 94.16. Chicago score: 74.18.</strong></p><p><strong>How Does Chicago Compare?</strong></p><p>Going back in Ingraham&rsquo;s work with states and congressional districts, Chicago and the 2nd Ward fit in pretty well. Chicago matches up well with states like Missouri as in the upper half, but not near the most gerrymandered. The 2nd Ward, though, would be just outside the top-10 for most-gerrymandered district (Illinois 4th is No. 8).</p><p>Again, these scores may be indicators of gerrymandering but is by no means the final word. That will come later from the legal system.</p></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 14:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watch-chicagos-2nd-ward-fly-north-over-years-110293 Mexico City startups eye Chicago as U.S. tech hub http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/288732880_a35cf41b31_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago could be further expanding its tech reach with help from Latin America.</p><p>Last fall, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera signed an economic partnership that includes joint trade initiatives and strengthening overall global competitiveness. As part of that agreement, a delegation from Mexico City this week got a first-hand look at Chicago&rsquo;s economic strategy.</p><p>It&rsquo;s part of an experimental exchange initiated by the Brookings Institution.</p><p>The group learned about Chicago&rsquo;s restaurant business, its tourism efforts and tech scene.</p><p>Felipe Lara was part of the delegation. He was particularly interested in learning more about Chicago&rsquo;s startup environment. He founded a company called <a href="http://www.cono-c.com/" target="_blank">Conoce</a> in Mexico City. It uses camera and algorithm technologies to track shopper behavior. He&rsquo;s hoping to find partners in Chicago to help sell his product in the U.S.</p><p>WBEZ&#39;s Susie An spoke with Lara and Greg Stevens from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Lara explained why international startups might choose Chicago over Silicon Valley.</p><p><em>Susie An is a business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon.</a></em></p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 Chicago seeks end to federal hiring oversight http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Shakman_Mik_03_jpg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A crusading lawyer who fought for decades against Chicago&rsquo;s entrenched political patronage system is finally calling for an end to federal oversight of City Hall&rsquo;s hiring practices.</p><p>Attorney Michael Shakman told a federal judge on Thursday that the city has come into &ldquo;substantial compliance&rdquo; with the so-called Shakman decrees, which are a series of court orders that have sought to end the sort of politically-motivated hiring and firing practices that have been an inextricable part Chicago politics for decades.</p><p>Chicago has been under the watchful eye of a federal hiring monitor since 2005, following high-profile political hiring scandals involving top aides to former Mayor Richard M. Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;Over the past several years, the City has developed and implemented policies and procedures to help ensure that unlawful political reasons and factors are not and will not be considered in the City&rsquo;s employment actions,&rdquo; reads Thursday&rsquo;s joint court filing, which was also signed by Corporation Counsel Steve Patton, the city&rsquo;s top lawyer.</p><p>Speaking by phone on Thursday, Shakman said Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has helped bring an end to the federal oversight by disciplining Daley-era workers who violated political hiring rules. He also praised Emanuel for implementing new hiring plans, and appointing aides and an inspector general who watchdog political hiring.</p><p>But Shakman added Chicago still has work to do to shed its reputation as a town where political supporters have often been rewarded with government jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not naive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t think that politics is gonna disappear overnight from the minds of lots of people. But all we can really do in the real world is set up procedures that should prevent it.&rdquo;</p><p>If a federal judge approves the joint request at a hearing on June 16, the city&rsquo;s inspector general would take over hiring duties from the court-appointed monitor.</p><p>That would mark the end of a legal battle that has plagued City Hall for nearly 45 years. The fight began in 1969, when Shakman was an independent candidate running against the mighty Cook County Democratic Party for a seat at Illinois&rsquo; 1970 Constitutional Convention. Since then, several court orders - collectively known as the &ldquo;Shakman decrees&rdquo; - have sought to strip political considerations from most hiring decisions at City Hall.</p><p>The federal monitor was <a href="http://www.shakmanmonitor.com/court_orders/Court%20Order%20Appointing%20Shakman%20Monitor.pdf" target="_blank">appointed</a> in 2005, following the federal indictment of Daley&rsquo;s former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, for steering city jobs toward politically-connected applicants, in violation of the Shakman decrees. Also that summer, another top Daley aide, Donald Tomczak, pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges. Sorich was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/guilty-verdicts-sorich-trial" target="_blank">found guilty</a> in 2006.</p><p>In addition to tempering Chicago&rsquo;s reputation for political cronyism, the hiring scandals have also cost City Hall big money. The city has had to foot the bill for the federal monitor, which has cost the city $6.6 million, according to Emanuel&rsquo;s administration. Another $4.3 million has gone to consultant and legal fees, and the city has paid out nearly $12 million to settle hiring-related legal cases since 2008, according to the an Emanuel aide.</p><p>&ldquo;Since the first day of my administration, we have made it a priority to take politics out of the hiring process, professionalize city government, and end the decades of practices that were a stain on our City,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. &ldquo;We are turning a page on the past to a future where the public knows that the City has a transparent and accountable system in place to ensure that city jobs will go to the candidate who is most qualified, not the most connected.&rdquo;</p><p>The end of federal hiring monitoring for the city may also mean the end of Joe Ferguson&rsquo;s tenure as Chicago Inspector General. Despite several <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705" target="_blank">public clashes</a> with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the past, the mayor <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590" target="_blank">reappointed</a> Ferguson to another four-year term last year.</p><p>But Ferguson told WBEZ then that he might &ldquo;move onto other things&rdquo; once the city was out from under the Shakman monitor, which he hoped to achieve by the end of this summer. On Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the inspector general declined to comment on his future.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a>&nbsp;is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 May 2014 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188 Chicago's e-cigarette crackdown is officially underway http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 <p><p>The city of Chicago&rsquo;s crackdown on electronic cigarettes officially begins Tuesday.&nbsp;</p><p>E-cigarettes, or vape pens, allow users to puff on nicotine vapor rather than real tobacco smoke. The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance in January that regulates the pens just like any other tobacco product. From now on, smokers won&rsquo;t be allowed to use any of these devices in the workplace or any enclosed public places like bars, restaurants, stores or sports venues.</p><p>The city policy also bans the distribution or sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and requires that stores keep them behind the counter, rather than out on the sale floor.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed the measure, and has been pushing restrictions on all forms of cigarette smoking - including boosting the cigarette tax and putting a prohibition on selling flavored tobacco products within a 500 feet of a school.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been a long line of activities to protect our kids from both tobacco products, and more importantly, from the tobacco companies seeing [kids] as part of their bottom line. And they&rsquo;re not,&rdquo; Emanuel told WBEZ.&nbsp;</p><p>Opponents - including some aldermen - say e-cigarettes are safer than regular tobacco-burning cigarettes, and can actually help people quit.</p><p>The Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal last week that would extend the agency&rsquo;s tobacco authority to cover e-cigarette products, which would restrict companies from giving out free samples. It would also impose minimum-age and identification restrictions on e-cigarettes and keep them out of vending machines (unless they&rsquo;re in a facility that never admits kids) but it stopped short of regulating advertising.The proposed rule is now under a public comment period.</p><p>Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Public Health, said the proposal is a good first step--and a step in the right direction--but the city&rsquo;s ordinance goes even farther.</p><p>Choucair said if anyone sees people smoking e-cigarettes in Chicago where they&rsquo;re not supposed to, they can call 311 to file a complaint.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Flaurenchooljian&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHdY9Bg1Uv8cPtNPU3NCg2qmAExsQ">@laurenchooljian</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966